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Best Italian place in T.O.?

Help!

The little woman and I will be in downtown Toronto this Saturday and will be looking for great Italian food. Any suggestions, please, for lunch and dinner on a Saturday? We won't have a car, so close to downtown would be nice...

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  1. Do you have a preference for Northern or Southern Italian? Is decor important? What sort of budget do you have? Is wine a big priority?

    1. There are a number of threads touching this subject, here are a couple...

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/578128
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/572651

      My recommendation would be to do it decently and go to the expensive but high quality (in terms of food and service) Trattoria Giancarlo (College & Clinton) for dinner. reserve - recently re-furbished

      1. yeah, what do you want? milanese or sicilian or roman? zucca is great, tutti matti also. gotta be more specific. we know our italian in to.

        9 Replies
        1. re: likescrab

          Thanks folks. Okay -- budget is not a concern. No wine. Not sure what region of Italy -- we were thinking veal, lasagne, great meatballs, that sort of thing. preferably close to downtown.

          1. re: greenwellies

            L'Unita open I think last year, I haven't been, I've heard mixed things, but it looks pretty nice. Via Allegro is in Etobicoke, but is usually considered the best Italian restaurant. Also alot of Chowhounders seem to like Mistura.

            I am not sure if Oro and Noce count as Italian, but they're worth checking as well. Has anyone been to Oro recently?

            1. re: stonedtoronto

              L'Unita is wonderful, casual, and downtown. Not sure if the menu suits your needs. It also has, bar none, the worst website.
              http://www.lunita.ca/index1.html

              Some on the board love Romagna Mia. My friends and I don't care for it as much as in the old days. Still, it's downtown and serving what you're looking for.
              http://www.romagna-mia.com/

              The only place that serves honest to goodness Sicilian cuisine is Fusilli. Not as upscale as other places mentioned. Just down home goodness.
              http://fusilli.ca/

              I don't get it. How did La Bruschetta go from a general "it's kinda okay" rating by the Hounds to being listed in a 'best of' category? That's a long trip from downtown for just okay. Did something radically change in the last month?

              1. re: Googs

                Googs, I would like to respectly disagree with you. I don't thing Romagna Mia or L'Unita is what greenwellies is looking for. Romagna Mia is Northern Italian, and slightly on the fancier end of the scale, where i believe what greenwellies is looking for is really good, home style Southern italian cuisine. You will not find meatballs or veal on their menu. I think that maybe the Big Ragu is more along that style (are they still open?)

                1. re: Googs

                  I don't think La Bruschetta is the best of anything, but this seems to be a request for more generic Italian dishes that one isn't likely to find on the menus of the best Italian restos in the city.

                  Most of the restaurants being suggested are not "the best," but they fill the niche requested by the OP.

                  1. re: tjr

                    icey, I guess I was more focused on the OP's stated desires for "close to downtown" and "best Italian". If they want southern cuisine then it's Fusilli. It doesn't get any more home style than there.

                    tjr, it's really unfortunate that what you say is true. While the old southern dishes may be considered 'generic', nothing can bring a smile to my face like a properly made cannelloni.

                    1. re: Googs

                      I'm as big a fan of home style southern dishes as anyone, but unfortunately most restaurants don't do them right. Anytime I visit a friend in Woodbridge, their mom usually ends up not only teaching me more about my stomach's limits, but I also wind up at home with trays of lasagna, meatballs, etc. that no restaurant in Toronto can match. Not only that, but I can make these items at home fairly easily.

                      Toronto doesn't have a great Italian scene, considering the amount of Italians which inhabit our fair city. There are some nice restaurants and some restaurants that are great at certain things, but the majority are mediocre and not worth visiting.

                      It's a shame, really, because not everyone has someone to go to when they need a lasagna fix!

                      1. re: tjr

                        I don't know about your take on the Italian restaurant scene. It seems that, besides Chinese, we have a overwhelming number of Italian restaurants and that a lot of them are good and quite a few are very good.

                        Now, about the "little woman", does she need smaller portions?

                        1. re: JamieK

                          I'm originally from Tokyo, where Italian restaurants (despite an extraordinarily low population of Italians) are in general quite good. A lot of mediocre Italian places in Tokyo are better than the good ones here, and their prices are often more reasonable!

                          I've had good Italian in Toronto (Mistura and Via Allegro are both in my top 10 for Toronto), but I am fairly proficient in the kitchen, make my own pasta, etc. I'm not a chef by any means, but if a restaurant can't produce dishes surpassing something I can make at home, it doesn't make much sense for me to go there. I'm not being an egomaniac, I just think that a lot of Italian places are slacking...

          2. Best gnocchi I've eaten in the city is at La Bruschetta. I also like their prosciutto, apparently everything there is made in house - including their prosciutto. It's a "not so secret" fave spot for celebs, but don't let that stop you. Prices are okay, here's a copy of the menu:
            http://www.labru.ca/menu.html

            When I mentioned that I never had fried zucchini flowers, I promptly got a plate of zucchini flower fritters - delicious!

            I would recommend La Bruschetta to anyone in the city, fantastic Italian.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sweatersister

              Second La Bruscetta, especially given your desires - veal, linguine and meat sauce, meatballs are all available. Hearty and satisfying cooking and a warm and inviting atmosphere. A manageable TTC or cab journey from downtown.

            2. NOCE on Queen West at Walnut........food is stellar........but maybe a bit too far west......Terroni in the old courtouse on Adelaide East........may need rez.........Miranda

              1. If it's pasta you want, then go to Gianni e Maria on St. Clair West, ALL pastas are homemade and some of them are quite unique like the Ravioli Piemontese. They make spectacular lasagne with rich bechamel and also light, pillowy gnocchi.

                Plus, it's a family place where you get lots of TLC and attention.

                1. Mistura is excellent, though I'm not sure it's the type of Italian you're looking for. I like Via Allegro a lot as well, but it's too far out of the way and, again, not the right type of food.

                  I'd say La Bruschetta is probably more along the lines of what you're looking for. Zucca has really great pasta, but I'm not fond of their non-pasta dishes. Quattro Ragazze gets quite a bit of praise on the board in general; I haven't been in a while, but it's pretty down to earth Italian.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: theresah

                    Found this relatively recent (May 08) review of La Bruschetta with fab pics:
                    http://www.spotlighttoronto.com/site/...

                    1. re: Rabbit

                      La Bruschetta also just launched their new Umbrian focussed menu and they are offering $75 cooking classes.

                  2. Icey is not quite correct. I have had a grilled veal chop at Romagna Mia. They also do quite a good risotto.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: hungry_pangolin

                      And lasgna too. Still think the OP would find what they want there in the environment they would want it in even if it is Northern.

                      1. re: Googs

                        Sometimes your best bets for good italian will come from takeaway stands and italian bakeries, if what you are looking for is good homestyle Italian. Some of those bakeries I mentioned = the Italian bakery at Richview plaza (in Etobicoke) and Messina bakery (on Scarlet road). Another one is La Rose Bakery (on La Rose Ave). You can usually get homestyle italian items, like meatballs and lasagna from their hot counters.
                        In terms of affordable restaurants, my italian friends like rocco's plum tomato on islington avenue (stick to the pasta though). Also Thyme 4 and Pazzia Osteria on the Queensway.

                      2. re: hungry_pangolin

                        Your right, hungry_pangolin, they do sometime have veal chops. I may have misunderstood The OP as I thought that when he said "veal", he was looking more for the nice, lightly fried and crisp veal cutlets, sometimes covered with sauce that Southern Italians do so well. I love Romagna Mia, and am actually having my wedding reception there in January, but I don't think I would go there for home style italian cooking. But again, I may not have understood exactly what the OP was looking for.